One question I get asked quite often is how we address the social aspect of homeschooling James and whether or not we're worried about it. My response is a bit lengthy, but I hope you'll bear with me as this is a subject I want to pay due respect to.
(or more accurately HOW they're asking) the topic of "socializing" James can be a bit touchy with me. For the sake of keeping things positive and because I will not get into a debate with anyone re this post, I'll avoid discussing the aspects of these questions which make me defensive. What I will say is that I think it's an inaccurate stereotype to assume that homeschooled children are "unsocialized". (I mean, seriously, in today's world, it seems nearly impossible to be anti-social.) I'll also side-step my thoughts on how some children are too "socialized" and not in a good way (think Facebook, texting, etc.).
With regard to the latter, I'd like to point out instead how mass communication has opened the doors to something positive for our children. Take blogs, for example: because so many of us are sharing our thoughts and ideas about teaching our children, more and more people are banding together to create mini teaching communities such as homeschool co-ops and educational playgroups. More and more families are opting to homeschool. Educational venues (such as museums) are aware of this and, in turn, there are many more of activities and opportunities being made available to children of all ages. Unless you flat out chose not to engage in these groups and events a homeschooling parent is hard pressed to avoid "socializing" their child.
Ok. That's my very scaled down spiel on "socialization". Now to answer your questions as it pertains to James.
When my husband and I first discussed homeschooling our children indefinitely, we certainly took a hard look at the social aspect of school. We recalled and shared stories of our own social experiences throughout school and realized they did little to benefit us. For me, I was VERY preoccupied with socializing, particularly in my high school years, to the point my education and self-image suffered. I also recalled students in my school that were very smart, but because of that they were bullied, ostracized and criticized by our peers. Thankfully, some of them were able to ignore the cruel teasing, but I saw others fake stupidity just to be accepted into that society. For my husband, going to school outside of the home didn't help him overcome his shyness - rather the opposite.
Then we found out that even on this tiny island there are plenty of interactive activities available for families and children of all ages. There are camps, festivals, classes, family nights, etc. There's even a homeschooling group here that hosts all sorts of events year round! We quickly realized James (and his sibling(s)) would be in no danger of being "unsocialized".
I must point out that I am not one of those parents that runs around attending and enrolling my child in every little thing *just* for the sake of social interaction. I believe there is such a thing as over stimulating a person. There needs to be time to just be with yourself. Also, while James is inherently shy and prefers smaller groups, he is not this way because we are homeschooling him. It's just who he is and we're totally fine with that. I was the same way when I was his age and, even though I still consider myself shy, I can speak with anyone (and 'regular' school had nothing to do with that change, btw).
All that said, however, depending on the week/month/season, our schedule can be a bit busy at times. Once a week James attends an art class, a music class and a gymnastics class (all are "drop off' classes where he attends them without a parent). He also has tennis lessons with a large group of children once a week. I also host a weekly playgroup for our Meet-A-Mum-Association where caregivers and children gather for a couple hours of play. In that same week we might get together with a friend and go on a "field trip" to the aquarium or some other fun locale. Once a month James attends 2 more drop off classes one at the local aquarium/zoo and the other at the National Gallery where he truly learns about art and sketches to his heart's content. In that same month we'll hit the grocery store, a birthday party, a seasonal event, the library, restaurants, and wherever else day to day life and errands takes us. ALL of them real life social situations where James interacts with whomever is there - not just people in his age group. I think this is of great importance if by referring to "socialization" we mean we are teaching our children how to interact in a society. It's for that reason we do not speak for James - for example, when we go to a restaurant, HE orders his meal and drink, HE says please and thank you to the wait person. He's learning what it means to be an individual in our world.
I mentioned Bermuda has a homeschooling group (made up of about 200 families). We've only just joined it (James had to be 4 years old before we were 'allowed' to join) and so far I'm really impressed with all they have going on. Throughout the year and often on a recurring basis there are language groups, sports clubs, family fun days, tours, etc. Over the winter one family held an "Astronomy Class" at their home where families gathered together for a fun and educational evening of star gazing. I've heard some homeschooling groups in the States are even more amazing and host clubs, dances (like Prom), and graduation ceremonies. We look forward to joining one of those communities when our time in Bermuda is over.
We recently attended the homeschooling Sports Day whereby all the families gathered together to watch our children compete in fun races and games. Every child got a ribbon, no matter what place they got. I was so proud of my shy little guy who participated in every event for his age and racked up 4 ribbons!
So there you go. I hope this post answers your questions. And I hope those persons who read this blog and do not homeschool know that I am in no way shape or form attacking them or ridiculing their way of 'socializing' their child. To each their own, I say. We're all doing our best and what we think is right for our child(ren).
~Thank you for your comments!~